The contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus will only produce such great fruit in us as we bring thereto certain dispositions which can be summed up into three: faith, reverence and love. Faith is the primordial disposition for placing us in vital contact with Christ. We celebrate mysteries, that is to say human and visible signs of a divine and hidden reality. To comprehend, to touch this reality, faith is needed. Christ appears as both man and God in each of these mysteries; often even, as in the Nativity and in the passion, the divinity is more than ordinarily hidden; in order to grasp it, to pierce the veil and reach to it, to see God in the child lying in the manger, or in the One who was “made a curse for us”, hanging on the gibbet of Calvary, or again in His Eucharistic appearances, faith is needed: Faith, for all defects supplying, where the feeble senses fail…
Without faith we shall never penetrate into the depths of the mysteries of Jesus; but with it, we have no need to envy Christ’s contemporaries. We do not see Our Lord as those who lived with Him, but it is given to us by faith to contemplate Him, to dwell with Him, and be united to Him in a no less efficacious way than it was for those who
were His contemporaries. We sometimes say: Oh, if I had lived in His time, if I might have followed Him with the multitude, with the disciples; if I might have served Him like Martha, or knelt listening to His words like Magdalene! But He has said: “Blessed are they that have not seen; and have believed”. If we have faith, we will remain as united Jesus as could those who saw Him with their eyes or touched Him with their hands.
I will even add this: it is the measure of this faith that for our part, determines the degree of our participation in the grace of Jesus contained in His mysteries. See what took place during His terrestrial life: those who lived with Him, who were in material contact with Him, like the Shepherds and Wise Men at the manger, the Apostles and all who sought Him during the years of His public life, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross, the disciples who saw Him risen and ascending to Heaven, all received grace according to the degree of their faith. It is always to faith that He grants the miracles asked of Him; every page of the Gospel shows us that He nade faith an indispensable condition for receiving His grace.
We cannot now see Jesus with bodily sight. Christ has ascended to Heaven. But faith takes the place of sight; and the degree of this faith, as was the case with Christ’s contemporaries, is, with love, the degree of our union with Him. Let us never forget this important truth: Christ Jesus without Whom we can do nothing, and of Whose fullness we must all receive, will only give us a share in His grace according to the measure of our faith. St. Augustine says it is not in walking that we approach Christ, but it is in believing. Thus the stronger and deeper is our faith in Jesus, the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, the nearer we approach Christ.
Moreover faith gives birth within us to two other sentiments which must enter into the attitude of the soul in the presence of Christ. These are reverence and love. We must approach Christ with inexpressible reverence. For Christ Jesus is God, that is to say the Almighty; the Infinite Being Who possesses all wisdom, all justice, all perfections; the Sovereign Master of all things; the Creator of all that is and the Last End of all that exists; the source of all beatitude. Wherever He may be, Jesus is always God, even when He gives Himself with the most benignity and liberality, He ever remains the One before Whom the highest angels veil their faces. In the manger, He allows Himself to be touched; the Gospel tells us that the multitude thronged Him on every side; and during His Passion, He lets Himself to be struck in the face, smitten and insulted; but He is ever God. Even when He is scourged, and spat upon, when He is nailed upon the Cross, it is ever He Who created heaven and earth by His power and governs them by His wisdom; and therefore whatever be the page of the Gospel that we read or the mystery of Jesus that we celebrate, we must adore Him. When we have a living faith, this reverence is so deep that it makes us fall at the feet this God-Man to adore Him. “Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God”.
Adoration is the first impulse of the soul drawn to Christ by faith: Love is the second. Love underlies all Christ’s mysteries. The humility of the manger, the obscurity the hidden life, the fatigues of the public life, the torments of the Passion, the glory the Resurrection, all is due to love: Having loved his own, He loved them unto the end. It is love, above all, that is revealed and shines out in the mysteries of Jesus. And it is above all by love that we understand them: We have believed the charity.
If we want our contemplation of Christ’s mysteries to be fruitful, we must contemplate them with faith, with reverence, but above all with love – the love that seeks give itself, to yield itself up to the divine good pleasure in order to accomplish it. It is then that the contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus bears fruit. “If anyone love Me,” says our Lord, “I will manifest Myself to him”. What does that mean? If anyone loves Me in faith, contemplates Me in My humanity, in the different states of My Incarnation, to him I will discover the secrets of My Divinity.
Happy, thrice happy, is the soul in whom so magnificent a promise is fulfilled! Christ Jesus will reveal “the gift of God” to her; by His Spirit “Who searcheth … the deep things of God”, He will make this soul penetrate into the sanctuary of this mystery hidden which His mysteries are; He will open to her those “storerooms” of the King of which the Canticle of Canticles speaks, where she will be inebriated with truth and joy. Doubtless, this intimate manifestation of Jesus to the soul, while she is here below, will not reach to the Beatific Vision, which remains the privilege of the blessed in heaven; but it will fill her with divine enlightenment, fortifying her in her ascension towards God: to know the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge.
This is truly the fountain of living water springing up for us unto life everlasting; for is not everlasting life to know God and His Divine Son, to confess with our lips and our lives that Jesus is the beloved Son in Whom the Father has placed all His delight, and in Whom He wills that we should find all things?
There is a third reason, one deeper and more intimate. Christ did not come only for the inhabitants of Judea, His contemporaries, but for us all, for all men of any nation and century. Do we not sing in the Credo: For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven? The “fullness of time” is not yet ended; it will endure as long as there shall be souls to save. For it is the Church that Christ, since His Ascension, has left the mission of bringing Him forth in souls. “My little children“, said St. Paul the Apostle of Christ Jesus among nations, “of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you”.
It is this grace of a new birth that the Incarnate Word merited for us by His Birth at Bethlehem. However, we should remember that if Christ was born, and lived and died for us all, the application of His merits and the distribution of His graces are made according to the measure of the dispositions of each soul. Consequently we shall only share in the abundant graces that Christ’s Nativity should bring to us in proportion to our dispositions. The Church knows this perfectly and therefore she neglects nothing that can produce in our souls that inward attitude required by the coming of Christ within us. Not only does the Church say by the mouth of the Precursor: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, for “He is near”, but she herself, like a Bride attentive to the wishes of her Bridegroom, like a mother careful for her children’s good, suggests to us and gives us the means of making this necessary preparation. If we allow ourselves to be guided by her, our dispositions will be perfect, and the solemnity of the Birth of Jesus will produce within us all its fruits of grace, of light and life.
Purity of heart. Who was the best disposed for the coming of the Word to earth? Without any doubt, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the moment when the Word came into this world, He found Mary’s heart perfectly prepared, and capable of receiving the Divine riches which He willed to heap upon her what were the dispositions of her soul?
Assuredly she possessed all the most perfect dispositions; but there is one which shines with particular brilliancy: that is her virginal purity. Mary is a virgin. Her virginity is so precious to her that it is her first thought when the angel proposes to her the mystery of the divine maternity. Not only is she a virgin, but her soul is stainless. The liturgy reveals to us that God’s special design in granting to Mary the unique privilege of the Immaculate Conception was to prepare for His Word a dwelling place worthy of Him: O God who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, didst PREPARE a worthy habitation for Thy Son.
Mary who was to be the Mother of God; and this eminent dignity required not only that she should be a virgin, but that her purity should surpass that of the angels and be a reflection of the holy splendor wherein the Father begets His Son in the brightness of the saints. God is holy, thrice holy; the angels, the archangels, the seraphim hymn His infinite purity: Holy, Holy, Holy. The bosom of God, of an infinite purity, is the dwelling-place of the Only-begotten Son of God. The Word is ever in the bosom of the Father but, in becoming Incarnate, He also willed, in ineffable condescension, to be in the bosom of His Mother, the Virgin Mary. It was necessary than the tabernacle that Our Lady offered Him should recall, by its incomparable purity, the indefectible brightness of the light eternal where as God He ever dwells. Thus the first disposition that attracts Christ is a great purity. But as for ourselves, we are sinners. We cannot offer to the Word, to Christ Jesus, that immaculate purity which He so much loves. What is there that will rake the place of it in us? It is humility.
Do not let us forget that the Lord, the Son, only wills what His Father wills. If He becomes incarnate and appears upon earth, it is in order to seek sinners and bring them back to His Father: “I came not to call the just, but sinners”. This is so true that later Our Lord will often be found, to the great scandal of the Pharisees, in the company of sinners; He will allow Magdalene to kiss His Feet and bathe them with tears.
We have not the Virgin Mary’s purity, but let us at least ask for the humility of Magdalene, a contrite and penitent love. 0 Christ Jesus, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come to me; my heart will not be for Thee a dwelling-place of purity for misery dwells there. But I acknowledge, I avow this misery; come and relieve me of it. 0 Thou who art mercy itself; come and deliver me, 0 Thou Who art almighty:
A like prayer, joined to the spirit of penance, draws Christ to us because the humility that abases itself in its nothingness thereby renders homage to the goodness and power of Jesus: him that cometh to me, I shall not cast out.
The sight of our infirmity ought not, however, to discourage us; far from that. The more we feel our weakness, so much the more ought we to open our soul to confidence, use salvation comes only from Christ Oh, if we who possess Christ Jesus, true God as well as true Man, really understood what the Sacred Humanity of Jesus is, we should have an unshaken confidence in it; for in His Humanity are all the treasures of knowledge and of wisdom; in it the Divinity itself dwells. This God-Man, Who comes to us is the Emmanuel, He is “God with us”, He is our Elder Brother. The Word has espoused our nature, He has taken on Himself our infirmities so as to know by experience what suffering is. He comes to us to make us partakers of His divine life; all the graces for which we hope. He possesses in their fullness in order to grant them to us.
If then we want the celebration of Christ’s Nativity to procure great glory for the Holy Trinity, and to be a consolation for the Heart of the Incarnate Word, a source of abundant graces for the Church and for ourselves, let us strive to purify our hearts, preserve a humility full of confidence, and above all let us enlarge our souls by breath and vehemence of our desires.
Let us ask our Lady to make us share in the holy aspirations that animated her during blessed days that preceded the Birth of Jesus. The Church has willed and- what is more just? – that the liturgy of Advent should be full of the thought of the Blessed Virgin; she continually makes us sing the divine fullness of a Virgin, a wonderful fruitfulness that throws nature into astonishment.
The virginal bosom was an immaculate sanctuary whence arose the most pure incense of her adoration and homage. There is something veritably ineffable about the inward life of the Virgin during these days. She lived in an intimate union with the Infant-God Whom she bore. The soul of Jesus was, by the Beatific Vision, plunged in the Divine light; this light radiated upon His Mother. In the sight of the angels, Mary truly appeared as “a woman clothed with the sun”, all irradiated with heavenly brightness, all shining with the light of her Son. Her feelings indeed reached the high level. She summed up in herself all the aspirations, all the impulses, all the longings of humanity awaiting the world’s Savior and God, at the same time going far beyond them and giving them a value that they had never hitherto attained. What holy intensity in her desires! What unshaken assurance in confidence! What fervor in her love!
This humble Virgin is the Queen of Patriarchs, since she is of their holy lineage, and since the child Whom she is about to bring into the world is the Son who resumes in His person all the magnificence of the ancient promises. She is, too, the Queen of prophets, since she is to bring forth the Word by Whom all the prophets spoke, since her Son is to fulfill all prophecy and announce to all people the good news of redemption.
Let us humbly ask her to make us enter into her dispositions. She will hear our prayer; we shall have the immense joy of seeing Christ born anew within our hearts and the communication of a more abundant grace, and we shall be enabled, like the Virgin, although in a lesser measure, to understand the truth of these words of St. John: “The Word was God … and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”.